If you want to buy a 3D printer or you have recently just acquired one, you’ll need 3D printer filaments. Unlike the ink used in 2D printers, 3D printers use filaments. Filaments are thermoplastics that are heated in the heating chamber of a 3D printer and extruded in a malleable form to produce a 3D model. These filaments come in different types, all of which have varying properties.
Types of Filaments for 3D Printers
3D filaments are classified according to the material they are made from and their properties. We’ll be looking at the four most common filaments.
1. PLA Filament
PLA filament is arguably the most popular among 3D printer owners. It is very easy to use, and any standard 3D printer can use it. Another plus of this filament is that it is a biodegradable product made from raw materials, e.g., potato and corn starch, tapioca roots, and sugarcane.
The downside to this filament is that it has a low melting point, making it unsuitable for certain applications. PLA filament is also not as durable as other 3D filaments made from synthetic raw materials. It also tends to clog the nozzles of the extruder during use.
2. ABS Filament
The ABS 3D filament is popular thanks to its strength and flexibility. Additionally, this filament is quite durable as it’s highly resistant to impact. Another great quality that this filament has is that it is quite flexible and produces scratch-resistant and lightweight objects.
Despite all its great properties, not all 3D printers can work with ABS filament. Furthermore, since it is a petroleum-based product, it is not easily biodegradable, making it unfriendly to the environment. ABS filaments also produce vapors during printing that can be hazardous to your health in poorly ventilated rooms.
3. PETG Filament
PETG is basically PET that has glycol added to it to create the filament used in 3D printing. This filament is quite loosely the junction between the ABS and PLA filament as it has more durability than PLA and is easier to use than ABS. Another distinct advantage of this filament type is its lower viscosity.
This property makes the process of printing objects using PETG faster and more reliable. A lower viscosity also produces more aesthetically pleasing objects without the clouding that the other two filaments produce. The two major downsides to this filament are its susceptibility to scratches and moisture absorption. When it absorbs moisture from the environment, this can compromise the quality of objects printed from PETG filaments.
4. Nylon Filament
Another popular choice of 3D printer filament is the nylon filament. Nylon filament is made from synthetic nylon, which is durable, resistant to wear and tear, and to chemicals. Nyon filaments are highly resilient, and already printed objects can be melted down again and re-used to print. The availability of this filament in different colors also makes it quite popular.
The greatest disadvantage about the nylon filament is that it is not easy to process and can create strings during printing. This can compromise the look of the finished product. Nylon also produces fumes that are toxic during the printing process and can only melt at very high temperatures.
Before you start a project, consider which filament you’ll use. Going basic? Try PLA. Need something more durable? ABS and PETG are smart choices. And be sure that you are using the proper ventilation for filaments like Nylon and ABS.